Teens hear wisdom, advice at MLK event

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

There were jokes and dance moves, but the message to teenagers Monday morning was anything but trivial.

“Straight Talk: No Chasers” was a morning-long session for teenagers presented by Wilson & Reives Law Firm and the Council for Effective Actions and Decisions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. The workshop presenters — Central Carolina Community College Recruiter Solomon McAuley and Boys and Girls Club of Sanford-Lee County Unit Director Dana Petty — shared their knowledge and offered guidance to the teenagers out of school for the holiday.

“I hope they are inspired to move forward with their lives,” Petty said, adding that these types of conversations didn’t have to wait until Martin Luther King Jr. Day and needed to take place throughout the year.

Both Petty and McAuley discussed relationships with friends, family members and significant others and stressed that communication was the key to any successful connection, regardless of the form.

“And they are definitely dealing with social media,” McAuley said. “Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or Instragram, it’s shaping young people’s lives. So we will be looking at that.”

Teenagers will put up a persona to their friends, family members and online when they are still trying to understand and figure out their own identity, he said.

“They all want to fit into a group, so they form this identity,” McAuley said. “ Even adults feel this way. But some kids want to fit in so bad, they are willing to risk it all.”

Lee County youth need to know there is a platform for their voices to be heard, he said, adding that they should get the opportunity to speak, express their concerns and share their experiences.

“I know there are people who want to hear them,” McAuley said. “What we can do is give them a platform to say how they feel and not just assume we know better. We don’t have an avenue for them to express themselves. We may not agree (with them), but we need to listen.”

There are plenty of adults giving bad advice to teenagers because they are still trying to figure out who they are, he said.

“(Teenagers) don’t feel accepted,” McAuley said. “They want to be loved, hugged, accepted, but grown folks don’t want to take the time.”

Sanford Police Capt. R. Petty continued the session with a question-and-answer forum for teenagers and their parents.

“We hope, as law enforcement, to build connections and show them who we are,” he said, “to try and show them we care.”

CEAD also held a series of events in honor of King throughout the rest of the day.